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JAMES GRAHAME, author of "The Sabbath,” was born at , department of the legal profession would yield him Glasgow on the 22d of April 1765. His father followed greater leisure to indulge the literary propensities the profession of a writer or law-agent in that city, and which were in him already strong and unchangeable. held a most respectable position in society, being alike In March 1795, he became a member of the Scottish valued for his business talents and integrity, and bar. For upwards of twelve succeeding years he conesteemed for his private worth. The mother of the tinued to attend the Court of Session in his capacity subject of our notice is also represented as having been of advocate, and would probably have been a weil remarkable for the possession of many high qualities employed one, had not his health prevented him not both of mind and heart ; and to the training derived only from engaging laboriously in the duties of the from such parents, James Grahame unquestionably profession, but even from desiring to attain a high owed much of the intellectual distinction which he degree of success. What business he did undertake afterwards attained, as well as that purity of principle was always well done, and his law papers, in particular, and moral rectitude by which he was equally charac- were drawn up with acknowledged ability and elegance; terised. His regular education commenced at the but, under all the circumstances, Grahame never begrammar-school of Glasgow, from which seminary he came famous as a practitioner at the bar of his native removed, at a fitting age, to the university of the same country. city. Here he spent five years in close and studious During his term of study at the University of Glasgow, attendance on the literary and philosophical lectures of James Grahame had given proof of his early poetical the college, and on those, in particular, of Professor tendencies, by collecting and publishing, at that time, Millar, whose prelections on law and government had a number of pieces which had been produced by him at an important influence in embuing the young student's various preceding periods. This little volume appears to mind with political opinions verging on extreme or be now lost to the world, a circumstance the less to be ultra-liberalism. These opinions caused him, on the regretted, however, since it is understood to have chiefly occurrence of the French Revolution, to give a warm contained the first rude draughts of pieces subsequently and perhaps imprudent approval of the principles which given to the public in an improved state. Passing over led to that event, and to anticipate great results there- this early production, we find Mr Grahame next prefrom. He, like others, was doomed in this to receive a senting himself in print in the columns of a Kelso newsdisappointment, as far as immediate consequences, at paper. The compositions which appeared here were least, were concerned.
afterwards published in a complete and amended shape, Though much of the youthful life of Grahame was under the collective denomination of the “ Rural necessarily passed in the crowded walks of his native Calendar.” No reputation, of course, resulted to the city, yet he was not deprived of those opportunities of author from these anonymous contributions to a proviewing nature in her rural garb, which seem of so vincial newspaper. In the year 1801, however, Mr much consequence to the early formation of a poetical | Grahame appealed directly and openly to public favour. taste. The elder Grahame had a summer residence on He issued from the press a dramatic poem upon the the banks of the little stream called the Cart, and here popular subject, and with the popular title, of “ Mary James used to spend all the leisure time that could be Stewart, Queen of Scotland." The best that can be spared from his town occupations. It was at this spot said of this production is, that it shows the author to that he pored over the works of Milton, Thomson, be a close observer of nature, and well read in the and others whose writings proved most congenial to knowledge of the human heart. To dramatic skill his taste. From these mental recreations, as well and power the poem has not the most slender preas from his graver academical studies, Grahame was tensions. called away at the age of nineteen, his father con Mr Grahame was married in the spring of 1802 to sidering that the fitting time had then arrived for his Miss Grahame, eldest daughter of a gentleman who entering on the profession of the law, to which the filled the respectable situation of town-clerk of Annan, youth had been long destined by his parent. Accord- in Dumfriesshire. This lady was in every respect an ingly, in the year 1784, James was bound apprentice eligible partner for the subject of our notice, as many to Mr Lawrence Hill, a Writer to the Signet in Edin- after years of mutual happiness satisfactorily proved; burgh, and a relative of the Grahame family. Though but her attachment to her husband, and her conscioushe permitted himself to be articled to the legal profes. ness of his talents, did not prevent her from at first sion without offering any opposition, the step was one taking part with those of his friends who counselled not at all in consonance with the young man's wishes, him to forsake poetry, as a field in which he was not nor agreeable to his peculiar tastes and sentiments. fitted to excel. A most pleasing incident relieved He was naturally of gentle temperament and delicate Grahame from all domestic opposition, at least, on this physical organisation, and a violent stroke on the head, score. At the time of his marriage, he had projected which he received ere he left Glasgow, produced such the composition of “ The Sabbath," and he pursued the a lasting effect upon his constitution, as to render him task of writing it in secret, concealing the nature of his ever afterwards more unable than he might otherwise occupation from every one, his wife not excepted. The have been, to play an active part on so bustling a stage same concealment was observed when the poem was as that of the law. His father's slightest wish, how- finished. It was sent to the press in 1804, and was ever, had too much weight with the son to permit him published anonymously at the close of that year, the to disclose the adverse bent of his inclinations, even on printer and bookseller only being cognisant of the an occasion of such importance as the choice of a pro- author's name. Grahame took an early opportunity fession for life.
of bringing a copy of the completed work home with After concluding his appointed term of service in him, and left it upon his parlour table, as if for his own Edinburgh with Mr Hill, Grahame underwent the cus- leisure reading. Entering the room soon afterwards, tomary trials, and was formally enrolled in the Society he found his wife earnestly engaged in the perusal of of Writers to the Signet. The influence of his family “The Sabbath ;" and burning with tremulous impatience and friends rendered his prospects of success in this to know her opinion, he walked up and down for some profession very flattering; but the death of his father, time in almost breathless silence. At length, unconat the close of 1791, induced the subject of our memoir scious of the hopes and fears that agitated her partner's to enter the Faculty of Advocates, trusting that this modest bosom, Mrs Grahame broke forth into a warm
MEMOIR OF THE AUTIIOR.
eulogy of the book, exclaiming finally, “Ah, James ! if poet was then so much shaken that he was anxious you could but produce a poem like this!" The plea- to get some settlement in the most southerly, or rather sure derived by both parties from the acknowledgment south-western, parts of England. He obtained his wish that followed must have been ineffable.
to a certain extent, being appointed to fulfil the duties “The Sabbath” appeared in the form of a small duo- of a curacy at Shipton Mayne in Gloucestershire. decimo volume, and met with such immediate approval Here he remained from the July following his ordinafrom the public, that the whole of the original impres- tion till March of the succeeding year, when some sion was sold off in a few days. Unknown as the author- domestic affairs compelled him to return for the time ship then was, Mr Grahame derived much gratification to Scotland. While residing in Edinburgh, in the sumfrom the praises bestowed on his work, both by profes- mer of 1810, he became a candidate for the charge of sional critics and by private friends. But he had also St George's Chapel, but was unsuccessful, to the great to endure no slight mortification from the same cause. and lasting regret of his friends. This circumstance The Edinburgh Review noticed the work, and, while carried him once more to England, where he obtained conferring considerable applause on it, sprinkled there the office of sub-curate in the chapelry of St Margaret's, with a very liberal admixture of sarcasm and censure. Durham. He entered on the duties of his sub-curacy It is but just to both critic and author, however, to in August 1810, and, on the 1st of May 1811, was state, that the notes appended to the poem received a transplanted to the parochial charge of Sedgewick, in much more severe judgment than the poem itself. the same diocese. This was the last of Grahame's Heedless of such critical decisions, whether favourable clerical removes, and though his whole career in the or unfavourable, the public stamped the work at once Durham district had been brief, and his employments with the warmest approbation ; nor, from that period humble, he earned a high reputation as a preacher, and to this, has “ The Sabbath” ever declined in popular wherever he went drew crowds to hear him. It is to esteem.
be feared that his zealous and irrepressible exertions A pamphlet, entitled “Thoughts on Trial by Jury," in this respect injured his health deeply, rendering the was composed by Mr Grahame in the year 1806, and clerical office by no means that place of calm and tranhis conduct of his argument was able and convincing. quil repose which he had long pictured it to be. Severe The step which he advocated, nevertheless, was not headaches were the form in which his malady displayed accomplished till many years afterwards. In the fol- itself, and these were usually accompanied by stupor lowing year (1807), he also avowed before his country- and temporary insensibility. In August of the same men the authorship of “ The Sabbath” and other year he came to Edinburgh, and received very encouragPoems, which were then collected and published in two ing opinions from his medical friends there; but after volumes by Blackwood. This disclosure rendered his removing to Whitehill, his brother's residence near name as much honoured at a distance as it had long Glasgow, his fits of stupor increased, and he expired on been within the elegant circle in which he habitually the 14th of September 1811. He had reached the age moved-at least through the winter months of the year. of forty-seven, and left behind him a family of two sons The summer season was almost uniformly passed by and a daughter. him in some agreeable retreat in the country. His In private life, James Grahame was a man of many health, unhappily, was so often, and, at times, so long virtues. Gentle in manners, and refined in taste, his unsettled, that such periodical visits to the banks of the conversation and company were delightful to all who Esk, and other rural spots, became absolutely necessary had the happiness of knowing him, and seldom did any to his comfort. Indeed, he constantly yearned to attain man possess more tenderly attached friends than the such a position in life as would enable him to pass all author of "The Sabbath.” He was tall in person, and on his days in the retirement which was most congenial to his dark and expressive features there sat, at moments him both mentally and corporeally. On this account of repose, a degree of gravity which might at first have he had never ceased to entertain the hope of entering called to one's mind the epithet “sepulchral” Grahame; the clerical profession, by which consummation he but the thought would soon have been dispelled on beholdthought his every wish would be realised. In the years ing the cheerful, and even mirthful, glow which lighted 1807 and 1808, he employed himself sedulously, but up the same countenance, in the midst of friends, when unostentatiously, in preparing for ordination in the wit and wisdom were bandied from lip to lip. Gloom church of England. Before adverting to the conse was no ingredient in our poet's temperament. Nor, quences of these preparations, it ought to be mentioned indeed, can he be justly charged with having infused a that, in the course of the same two years, he produced morose or “sepulchral tone » into his writings genethe “ Birds of Scotland,” and the “British Georgics," rally, though, in particular passages (to use the words of which poems the first was composed at Kirkhill on of Sir Walter Scott), “his views of society are more the Esk, and the second at a sweet retreat near his wife’s gloomy than the truth warrants.” Sir Walter's further native town of Annan. The “Birds” and the “Georgics” remarks upon Grahame's poems may be introduced have not enjoyed so lasting a popularity as “The Sab- here, as calculated to give a fairer idea of his merits as bath,” but they were poems calculated to sustain the a poet, than any other critique which could be presented author's fame.
to the reader. 66 The most remarkable feature of In 1809, a poem on the subject of Slavery, from the Grahame's poetical character, is his talent for describpen of our author, made its appearance, in conjunction ing Scottish scenery, in a manner so true and lively, as with two others, the one produced by James Montgo- at once to bring the picture to the recollection of his mery, and the other by Miss Eliza Benger. These countrymen. The ardent love of nature, in which this three pieces were published in one splendidly embel- power of description has its source, is uniformly comlished volume, the expense of issuing which was borne bined with virtuous and amiable feeling. Accordingly, by Mr Bowyer, a London citizen who was patriotically his poetry exhibits much of these qualities. In his zealous for the commemoration, in a fitting form and moral poetry, he occasionally unites, with the nakedmanner, of the recent abolition of the traffic in slaves. ness of Wordsworth’s diction, a flatness which is all his All of these poems were compositions of high merit. own. In his landscapes, on the other hand, he is always
In the same year (1809), on the 28th of May, Mr at home, and more fortunate than most of his contemGrahame, having purposely visited England, was ad- poraries. He has the art of being minute without being mitted to orders in the English church, by Dr Henry confused, and circumstantial without being tedious. His Bathurst, Bishop of Norwich. The Bishop of Norwich Sabbath Walks are admirable specimens of this his kindly pressed the newly ordained clergyman to reside principal excellence.” These observations were written within his diocese; but the health of the Scottish | in 1808.